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L.A. school board to consider millions of dollars in budget cuts

LAUSD board to consider cuts. Debbie Allen speaks out against cuts to the arts in February
The Los Angeles Board of Education is expected to vote Tuesday on a worst-case $6-billion budget that would eliminate thousands of jobs, close all of the district's adult schools and eliminate some after-school and arts programs, among a slew of other reductions.

The budget plan could change, and even if it is approved by the school board, a final version of the budget most likely is months away. But the nation's second-largest school system is under pressure to pare more than $390 million from the budget for next year.

Supporters of the programs up for elimination are expected to rally outside of Los Angeles Unified School District’s downtown headquarters ahead of the afternoon meeting.

Last month, the board delayed a vote on a budget plan with similar cuts aimed at bridging a $557-million budget gap. Instead, the board directed Supt. John Deasy to work with his staff and the unions for teachers and other employees to develop a proposal that avoids eliminating these programs and allow the parties to consider updated state budget information.

In a letter to the board obtained by The Times, Deasy explained that the readjustment of the district’s budget deficit comes after a combination of a $108 million reduction in state funding cuts for the district, including restoration of projected cuts to transportation for schools, higher-than-expected state lottery revenues and a decrease in projected benefits expenditures.

The smaller deficit could lead to less severe cuts and fewer layoffs, said Tom Waldman, a spokesman for the district.

Last month, the board approved sending more than 11,700 layoff notices to teachers and support staff. The district has had more than 8,000 layoffs over the last four years but eventually hired many back.

In his letter, Deasy urges the board to pass the interim budget, but also suggests several options to further reduce the deficit and mitigate program cuts and layoffs. The options, however, require approval by the teacher unions and additional state revenue.

According to a draft of the budget proposal obtained by The Times, all of the district’s adult school could be closed and 1,500 teachers, administrators and other employees from those schools could be fired.

The district's early education programs could operate solely on revenue they generate.

Elementary and middle school class sizes may rise, and funding for GATE, the district's program for gifted and talented students, would be cut in half, according to that plan.

A dropout recovery program offered by L.A. Unified's Division of Adult Education might be safe from massive cuts, but could be relocated to high schools.

Even the district's perennially dominant Academic Decathlon program would be hit. The program, which has 63 teams and has won 17 state and 12 national championships, would lose its $850,000 budget.

The board is also expected to vote on placing a parcel tax proposal on properties within district boundaries in the November 2012 Los Angeles County ballot.

An effort to increase revenue, the voter-approved measure would place a $298-per-parcel tax over five years. The tax would bring in an estimated $255 million a year beginning in 2013-14.

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-- Stephen Ceasar

Photo: Dancer and actress Debbie Allen talks about the importance of arts education during a February meeting of the Los Angeles Unified School District board to consider cuts in adult, arts and early education programs. Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

 
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